Like, sure, castor oil is definitely having a ~moment~ right now (need proof: Just look at the shampoos, hair masks, and body washes at places like Sephora and Ulta), but I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s by no means a new ingredient. I’d bet some good money that you can find castor oil in pretty much every Jamaican household (including mine), even if it’s relegated to the back of the pantry (right behind the canned ackee, callaloo, and coconut milk).
But even though my parents have told me over the years that castor oil is the secret to long, thick hair, I’ve never been truly convinced. That’s why I hit up three hair experts to finally get a definitive answer: Does castor oil actually work for hair growth? Here’s everything you need to know about growing long, shiny-AF hair with the old-school Jamaican beauty remedy, ahead.
What is castor oil?
First thing’s first: Castor oil is a vegetable oil pressed from castor beans, which have been around for centuries. It’s usually colorless, though you’ve likely seen yellow or black versions on Amazon or at your local Ulta. Jamaican black castor oil is one of the more popular variations—it’s got a thicker consistency, since it’s boiled with ash, which gives it a warm, roasted scent. Castor oil is loaded with vitamin E, fatty acids, and minerals, says Hadley King, MD, board-certified dermatologist in NYC. And thanks to its emollient properties, castor oil is an ideal ingredient for ultra-hydrating conditioners and masks.
It’s also a super popular option for treating irritated scalps, excess oil, and dandruff, thanks to the fact that “castor oil is not only anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial, but it also helps maintain moisture in the skin,” says Michelle Blaisure, certified trichologist from Bosley Professional Strength.
How effective is castor oil for hair growth?
The good news: Castor oil is an affordable treatment if you’re looking to add shine, smooth flyaways, and condition your hair, says hairstylist Courtney Foster. The not so good news: Even though there are plenty of stories around castor oil and hair growth, there aren’t actually any studies or scientific evidence that prove castor oil will actually grow your hair. I know, I know—the truth hurts. But there’s still a good reason why people use castor oil for hair growth, which brings me to…
How do you use castor oil for hair growth?
Again, there’s no concrete evidence that directly links castor oil and hair growth, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Hear me out: The ricinoleic acid in castor oil helps lock in moisture while promoting a clean and healthy scalp—all of which are essential to hair growth. So if growing your hair super long is the goal, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be using castor oil to set yourself up for success.
According to the pros, it’s best to use castor oil about once or twice a week— just massage a dime-sized amount of product onto your scalp and let it soak for anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours before rinsing it out (BTW: When my hair was relaxed, I loved blow-drying the oil from roots to ends before rinsing it out for even more shine and moisture). For an ultra-hydrating weekly treatment, coat your hair with castor oil, slap on a shower cap before going to bed, then shampoo and condition the next day. As a reminder, Jamaican black castor oil is on the thicker side, so it’s best for anyone with dense or coarse hair, while regular cold-pressed castor oil is great for finer hair types.
Keep in mind that hair growth doesn’t happen over night—regardless of what products or treatments you’re using. “There is no standard as far as how often you should use castor oil, but I’d recommend one to two times a week for at least three months, as that’s typically how long before you’ll see new hair coming in,” says Blaisure. And, hey, if after three months you still aren’t seeing a significant change, at the very least you’ll have hydrated, shiny-as-hell hair.
Is castor oil good for eyelashes and eyebrows?
As long as you’re using caution (i.e., you aren’t putting it directly in your eyes), then yes, castor oil is safe to use on your lashes and brows. Again, there’s no guarantee that castor oil will make your hair grow faster, but it can act as a great conditioning serum. I personally like to rub a couple drops of castor oil between my fingers to warm it up, and then massage the oil along my brows. You can also dip a mascara spoolie in your castor oil and gently brush up your lashes, too.
What’s the bottom line?
While the scientific data is lacking on castor oil and hair growth, the cost-friendly oil can do wonders for your scalp, which, obvi, is essential for healthy, long hair. And remember to be cautious of everyday behaviors that can cause hair loss and breakage in general, like wearing super-tight hairstyles (think: braids and snatched ponytails), brushing too hard, and using excessive heat styling.